Four water soluble copper(II) complexes, [Cu(HL)2 (H2O)2]Cl2 (1), [Cu(HL) 2 (ClO4)2 ] (2), [Cu(HL)2 (SCN)2] (3) and [CuL 2 ]·8H 2 O (4), where HL is pyridine 2–carboxamide, have been synthesized and characterized by various spectroscopic techniques. Structures have been determined by single crystal X-ray crystallography. The pH induced inter-conversion of Cu(HL)2 (H2O)2 ]Cl2 (1) and [CuL2]·8H2O (4) through co-ordination mode switching was investigated thoroughly with the help of absorption spectroscopy. Complexes 1–3 were found to be active catalysts for the oxidation of toluene, ethyl benzene and cyclohexane in the presence of hydrogen peroxide as the oxidant under mild conditions. Toluene was oxidized to benzyl alcohol and benzaldehyde, ethyl benzene was oxidized to 1-phenylethanol and acetophenone and cyclohexane was oxidized to yield cyclohexanol and cyclohexanone Antimicrobial activities have been investigated with these copper(II) complexes against gram + ve bacteria, gram − ve bacterial and fungal species.